Muslim scapegoating has been a chronic problem for a long time but it came to a head when Republican Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and his supporters called for and held a hearing on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims. He claimed that the hearing was necessary because there were growing concerns about the increase in “home grown terrorism” that was being backed by Al Qaeda and other radical Muslim groups. He also leveled accusations that the Muslims were not cooperating sufficiently with the anti-terrorism efforts being made by the government.
King and his cohorts in the government stood their ground when their plan was opposed by a large number of democrats. Political and social ultra-conservatives outside the government came forward in large numbers to support the issue. At the same time Civil rights and humanitarian groups came out in full force against the hearings saying that they were not “anti-terrorist” but were clearly “anti-Muslim”. Americans are seldom passive about any issue they feel might affect their rights and their personal lives. So as is customary, groups on both sides of the controversy stood up and gave strong support to what they want to see happen and why they feel it is important. Whatever their stance, Americans don’t like to see anyone’s civil rights violated not only because they believe in upholding justice but because they realize that their rights might be the next ones to be taken away.
The planned hearing was so controversial that the American Civil Liberties Union gave a strong warning to the committee members and advised them to stay within the guidelines of the First Amendment. The ACLU made a formal statement saying that “Singling out a religious community’s loyalty to the United States is misguided, counter- productive and discriminatory”. Democrats and citizens rights groups stood up against the hearings calling them discriminatory and hostile to the Muslim community and that a positive outcome of any kind would be impossible. There were many other supporters who claimed that the hearing was nothing but a terrorist act against the Muslims as the sole target and that the government should be focusing on all threats to homeland security rather than discriminating against one group.
The hearings proceeded in spite of protests and the opposing sides presented their own defense. By the time the four hour hearing was over it was easy to see that King and his cohorts seemed to rely mostly on invalid statistics and broad generalizations about Muslims and their ‘terroristic’ attitudes and actions. They dramatized their position with broad emotional statements about the threat of home grown terrorists groups and how they were expanding and posing an increasing danger all over America. One commentator said that although they made strong statements, what they said seemed to have no basis in anything except their own minds and imaginations.
On the other side, Republican Richardson of California likened King to Senator Joe McCarthy who led the well known anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950’s. Congressman and Republican, Keith Ellison, a Muslim, cried in front of the committee when he described the actions of a Muslim paramedic from New York who died while attempting to save victims of the 9/11 disaster. The Los Angeles County Sheriff, Leroy Baca who has been working on counterterrorism efforts for years made a strong statement. He cautioned the members of Congress that any group could be radicalized and that singling out one group as was being done to the Muslims was counter-productive. He made it clear that the Muslims in general had a good relationship with law enforcement agencies and were usually very cooperative.
When all was said and done, those who were against the hearing because of its discriminatory nature actually made a good showing in spite of or perhaps because of the opposition. Even in the face of all the evidence given in favor of not singling out the Muslims and labeling them as terrorists, King’s final statement was that there would be more inquiries held including one that would focus on radical Islam in America’s prisons. One Muslim’s response to the hearing was: “Looks like we’re the official scapegoat and it’s not going to get easier any time soon”.
It is evident that the world has always needed a scapegoat. Whether it is a person or a group of people they choose, it’s an ugly game that puts its victims on edge. Scapegoating can go on in a family, or a workplace or as in this case with a whole worldwide community of people. Sometimes what pushes people to commit this crime is that that they have a lot of stress in their lives for a multitude of reasons and see themselves as helpless to do anything positive to change their situation-they feel they are about to reach the end of their ropes and they have to take it out on someone. They pick an easy target and take all their stress and frustration out on that innocent victim by making them look like the bad guy. Other people who scapegoat are just plain nasty people who, whatever their situation is, feel the need to bully others for no legitimate reason.
This phenomenon goes way back in history all over the world. America is well known for its McCarthy era where innocent people were harassed and their lives ruined by the government that accused them of being communists or communist sympathizers. In another era, people who were of Japanese descent but were born and raised in the States were rounded up and put into concentration camps during the war with Japan. They had done nothing wrong but again, the government and the people were afraid and they had to blame someone so they picked an easy target.
So what about the Muslims? They have to one degree or another always been discriminated against in America but in recent years the anti-Muslim sentiment has increased tremendously. Muslims have been harassed, shot and killed and had their businesses burned to the ground since all this started. The 9/11 incident gave the country, headed up by the government, a big excuse to start spreading Islamophobia even more. The people who were depressed, frustrated, out of work and needing a scapegoat jumped on the bandwagon. The bullies looking for a target joined forces with them. Then for a multitude of illegitimate reasons the government started invading Muslim countries in the name of ‘homeland security”. They knew that if they wanted to get a lot of money to go to war, they would have to create an enemy in everyone’s mind and make people afraid. Consequently, Islamophobia kept increasing.
Last week’s hearing of the Homeland Security Committee publically demonstrated just how intense the situation has become and how intent some elements in the government are at making Islam and Muslims their target. The outcome proved that the powers that be have no intention of decreasing their witch hunts.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion. Everyone is by law, proven to be innocent until proven guilty. Maybe King and his supporters need to be reported and investigated for un-American activities.
© Islam Times